Remember when Resident Evil was about surviving against the undead, as opposed to just blowing their heads off? Remember when Resident Evil was about exploring and solving puzzles, as opposed to just killing zombies? Remember when Resident Evil actually made you conserve your items, as opposed to being allowed to go all guns blazing? Remember when Resident Evil was the video game equivalent of a B-grade horror movie, as opposed to an action movie?
Pepperidge Farm remembers. It also remembers that while it was far from the first survival horror game ever made, it was the game that got the genre on the map in the first place. In fact, it even coined the term “survival horror”, and throughout the game, you'll know what they mean – a haunting atmosphere, limited items around the place, limited space in your character's inventory packs, zombie dogs jumping through windows to attack you and, above all else, just the feeling that you could be dead at any moment is the definition of survival horror. Maybe not the best example of it – the series got better with each installment until the fourth one, in which they changed it up – but it's a pretty good example of it.
A series of bizarre murders have occurred in Raccoon City, so it's up to the Special Tactics And Rescue Service or STARS to investigate. After getting attacked by a pack of dogs, Chris, Jill, Barry and Wasker hide out inside a seemingly safe mansion, but they find more than they bargained for inside. Zombies eating other STARS members and Wesker suddenly disappearing... something's up with this mansion. I want to say that this leads to an excellent story or at least a good one, but it ends up feeling more like a B-grade horror movie, with extremely corny dialogue (“you were almost a Jill sandwich” is poetry at its finest) and overactive voice acting. It's laughably bad, and whatever drama or tension it was meant to convey is lampshaded by campy voice acting, but I guess if you have the case of the blues, this should cheer you up. In saying that, the story has a few changes depending on who you play is (Chris or Jill), and it's a neat little touch to make you want to play it again.
I'd make a joke here, but this screenshot does all the work for me.
But gameplay is no laughing matter. Just like the story, bits of gameplay will be determined by who you play as. Jill can hold two more items than Chris and can get a lockpick from Barry, while Chris can only hold six items, which include keys. Speaking of which, item management is something that you'll want to get right as quickly as possible, because that's what half the game is revolved around. Not only will you want to manage what you carry since you can only carry a few items at a time, but when you'll use consumable items too (healing items like various herbs and first aid sprays, and bullets), since they're only found at limited quantities. Thankfully, you can store what you don't need inside chests that are usually placed inside a save room. Speaking of saving, even that's limited to how many ink ribbons you have, which are also limited in quantity. Yeah, learn quick or get left behind.
Since you're trapped inside the mansion, you'll have to explore to find items that are needed to proceed and get out of the mansion (well you technically could get out at the start... but then you get attacked by dogs and have to shut the doors... on their jaws... ouch). This would involve finding objects to place elsewhere, or pushing stuff around. By itself, the puzzle solving is okay, but in conjunction with exploring the mansion, I'd say it's fairly well done. Perhaps it's the way that the mansion is designed, but it never feels like a puzzle is all that tedious.
However, even though you have weapons at your disposal, Resident Evil is not an action game... and I think this is to cover up the fact that the action isn't nearly as well implemented as the rest of the game. What I mean is that the action sequences are pretty lame. Against enemies, it's fine because they're more of a small obstacle than anything else and a shotgun shell to the face is more than enough to get rid of them, but bosses are another story altogether. Every single boss have similar patterns and you have to use similar tactics... which involve you shooting them once, then running away to counter each bosses' tactic of running/slithering towards you and then attacking; rinse, lather and repeat. To put it simply, the bosses are quite a bother to fight, especially the last boss. That's the only real flaw in this game, unless you're not down with tank controls or old school survival horror in general.
Just another day at the office.
Back in 1996, the graphics were considered fantastic! Placing 3D models on top of pre-rendered surroundings was like a stroke of genius because pre-rendered surroundings did tend to look photo realistic, even if it was at the cost of interactivity. Nowadays, it certainly looks like an early 3D game. The models, if you couldn't tell by the images, are blocky and small features (which I mean faces) are a bit hard to distinguish, and the pre-rendered surroundings, while still alright on the eyes, certainly appear to have some low quality textures. It's still not horrible, but you can definitely tell that this was an early 3D game. The later two games have aged a bit better.
As for sound design, you can tell they had an ear for atmosphere, as it always kept a haunting, droning atmosphere until (and I mean until, not before) something happens. When a zombie attacks, or when you're faced with a boss, or even with a few cutscenes here and there, the music racks up the intensity, telling you that it's going down! Due to this, it's got quite an atmosphere going for it. Then you have the voice acting, which I've already described as overactive, but seriously, if anything in this game had the potential to be dramatic, it was ruined by the voice acting, and while it's very amusing, if you're looking for some serious moments like in the later games, you're in the wrong place.
Resident Evil deserves an 8/10. The action segments aren't that good and any attempt at drama is lampshaded by campy voice acting, but everything else is pretty good - whether it's actually good, like the atmosphere, level designs and the survival elements; or really corny, like the voice acting and dialogue.